Yesterday I briefly talked about the remaining evidence of the gardens on the Brymbo Estate. There isn’t much, but there is enough of a record through maps and photographs to give some idea of the house’s landscape setting and of what was lost through neglect and opencast mining.

Other evidence may still exist in estate records, some of which survive thanks to their inclusion in papers relating to the estate of Brogyntyn in Shropshire, whose owners had a close legal involvement with Brymbo in the days before John Wilkinson bought it.

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Brymbo Hall in the early 1950s. Crown copyright.

Brymbo Hall in the early 1950s. Crown copyright.

The picture to the right shows Brymbo Hall from the air, taken in the early 1950s. While the level of detail shown isn’t huge, it reveals a few interesting landscape features long since destroyed by opencast mining.

The house is surrounded by what locals, in the 20th century, called Brymbo Park. On earlier documents it was known as Brymbo Demesne, and consists of those parts of the Griffiths‘ old estate not let out to tenant farmers but directly attached to the main house. A further subdivision of this land was the formal, partly terraced garden seen on older Ordnance Survey maps, and glimpsed in a few older photographs. Given the neglect of the house from the 1920s onwards, the garden is otherwise poorly recorded, but it is possible to reconstruct some of its main elements.

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Pentresaeson farmhouse lies on the western slope of a shallow valley, at the bottom of which a tributary stream runs to join the Gwenfro at Gwernygaseg. Like many others in the area, it has not been a working farm for many years, but throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, at least, was one of the largest in Brymbo, in terms of the land attached to it.

This land once stretched away northward as far as the Glascoed, and uphill westward as far as the Cefn; much of it well above the 800 feet mark, high, cold and best suited to rough pasture. Like other holdings in the west of the township, it would have been an unforgiving environment in which to farm. It was once the property of John Wilkinson, who purchased it in around 1800 when, gripped by an enthusiasm for agricultural improvement, he was in the process of expanding the Brymbo Hall estate. For some of this period a family called Harrison tenanted it; Charles Harrison in 1798, immediately before Wilkinson’s purchase, and John Harrison and his sister in 1829. Later in the 19th century a father and son, both named James Wilkinson, farmed there. In this period the immediate area would have changed substantially: for although there were some coal pits nearby from at least the 1680s, and perhaps earlier, the 19th century saw the arrival of the railway and its small halt, the Taylor Brothers foundry, and the adjacent Pentresaeson colliery, though without removing the location’s essentially rural character.

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This time, a very brief gem courtesy of Alfred Palmer’s History of the Parish of Gresford, taken from the parish registers of Dodleston. Gresford parish commenced just beyond the Ffrwd at the boundary of Brymbo township. A few miles further to the north-east it adjoined Dodleston, in what until the time of the Enclosures was a marshy and debatable common moor. Denbighshire, Flintshire and Cheshire all met here at a spring called Morwall, the “moor well”. In Palmer’s time there was still a field in the area called “Holywell”.
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Alongside coal and iron, the Middle Coal Measures of the Denbighshire Coalfield yielded huge quantities of fireclay, which gave rise to a thriving brick industry in the 19th century. Although the clays of Ruabon, and the hard red bricks made from them, were far better-known, the coal outcrops at Brymbo were no exception and there were once a number of brickworks in the Brymbo area, some of which survived until comparatively recently, and which produced both firebricks and “common bricks” for industrial and domestic uses. Although a lower-profile industry than the coal mines and less prestigious than the iron foundries, the brickyards were another characteristic part of the East Denbighshire landscape.

As with the collieries, I’ll start with a look at the Brymbo Company of Henry Robertson and the Darby brothers, operators of the Brymbo ironworks and much else besides.

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This is site about Brymbo, a township once part of Denbighshire, and its history. You can read more about the site in general, start with the most recent posts or with the archives listed below.